a review by Nalini Haynes
Director: Fritz Lang
Year: 1927, re-released in 2010
Freder is a young man living in Metropolis, a city built on the blood sweat and tears of the worker underclass. One day Freder is at play in a garden open only to the sons of the elite class, when a group of worker school children enter on an excursion with their teacher. Promptly expelled from the garden by attendants, the group leaves, but not before Freder is entranced by the vision of worker children calling him brother.
Joh Frederson, Freder’s father, rules Metropolis from the penthouse in the Tower of Babel. A harsh employer, he sacks Josaphat for not informing Joh of an explosion and unrest. Freder sends Josaphat to his own dwelling while Freder explores the worker areas of the city. The workers are seeking a ‘heart’ to act as mediator between the ‘head’ (thinkers and rulers) and ‘hands’ (working class).
Meanwhile, Joh engages a villain to follow his son, whose own agenda unfolds later. Joh visits Rotwang, the inventor, who is still angry over the loss of Hel, whose romance with Joh ended in death in childbed. Rotwang builds a machine man and plans his revenge on the city, Joh and Freder.
Metropolisis more a cross between theatre and dance than contemporary cinema. Dating from before sound, ideas are conveyed using melodrama and imagery. Text is interspersed to convey some meaning, put on screen as a break in the cinematography, not with subtitles, as was traditional during this era. This edition has been released with footage previously lost adding approximately 1/4 of the viewing time to restore Fritz Lang’s original director’s cut accompanied by a new recording of the 1927 soundtrack. Approximately 150 minutes, which I watched in installments. This re-release of Metropolis is a must for collectors and movie buffs alike; it is an archaeological epic revealing the development of cinema in the 20th century.
Previously published in Dark Matter issue 4, July 2011, blog post predated to reflect the original publication date.
Cover: © 2010 Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, Wiesbaden